This is a rare Civil War document from the 26th Regiment United States Colored Infantry, which was organized at Riker’s Island, NY by the Union League Club of New York. The unit saw extensive action in South Carolina during the final year of the war. Dated September 1, 1864 in Hilton Head, South Carolina, this item documents the payment of $331.99 to Lt. Col. William B. Guernsey of the 26th U.S. Colored Troops. Guernsey eventually went on to become the Colonel of this organization a few months later as a result of the death of the original Colonel, William C. Silliman, due to a mortal wound received in battle at Georgia Farms, South Carolina. (Of note, Guernsey was a citizen of Norwich, Connecticut, who owned several mills in the area and was part of one of Norwich’s founding families.) This document lists payment for two months of service, July and August of 1864, for both Guernsey and two servants who are both African-American. Guernsey received $160 for the period and the two servants received $44 total! This document is an interesting glimpse into one of the lesser known aspects of the American Civil War and the U. S. Colored Troops. It is also a nice piece for collectors of autographs or Connecticut history.
The document is in very nice condition. It is filled out in beautiful handwriting with strong ink. The paper is yellowed and somewhat fragile, as would be expected. It measures 11 1/4 inches by 17 inches. There is minor darkening along all of the folds. As is typical of documents of this size, it has been folded for most of its life and the folds have weakened or separated. Somebody in the past has rejoined the separations and strengthened the weak folds with archival tape. This now holds the document together nicely and because of the use of archival tape, there is no discoloration. This is a terrific display piece that should be framed and preserved for posterity. There is a small section of summary information on the reverse side which you might also want to show if the piece is framed. Quite a bit of information has been found on the internet about this U.S. Colored Troops unit, the 26th Infantry, and the commanding officers. There is potential for even more research to be done that would flesh out more of the interesting aspect of this item.
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